In what is becoming a regular event, the US embassy and representatives of the Navajo and Hopi are trying to stop an auction of Native American artefacts in Paris. The Navajo decided to take matters into their own hands and buy back seven masks. The Hopi did not. At least one bidder is reported to have dropped out when he understood he was bidding against the tribe:
The U.S. Embassy in Paris had asked Drouot to suspend the sale to allow Navajo and Hopi representatives determine if they were stolen from the tribes. But Drouot refused, arguing that the auction was in accordance with the law — and that a French tribunal had previously ruled that a similar sale was legal.
Navajo Nation Vice President Rex Lee Jim said the objects were not art but “living and breathing beings” that should not be traded commercially.
Jim, a medicine man who traveled to Paris for the auction with three other Navajo officials, said they were unable to determine the exact provenance of the artifacts but said they had to face the reality of the auction and buy them back.
“They are sacred masks… and unfortunately they end up here. Whether that is legal or illegal… We don’t know. What we do know is that they are for sale,” Jim said.
The Navajo Nation representatives bid for seven masks at the auction and won despite a bidding war with a private collector.
Navajos buy back artifacts at disputed auction (Yahoo News UK)